The world needs a flexible, adaptive, ethical, and transparent approach to treatment and prevention
The Ebola epidemic is threatening not only West Africans’ lives, but also the progress toward democracy, economic growth, and social integration that Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea have made in the last decade. In order to protect their achievements, the three countries’ governments, which comprise the Mano River Union, must buttress their response to the current epidemic with a coordinated strategy to prevent future outbreaks.
But they cannot do it alone. Though several experimental treatments and at least two candidate vaccines had been in development when Ebola emerged unexpectedly early this year, progress had stalled well before any were deemed ready to be tested in humans. After all, clinical research to assess the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and vaccines can happen only during an epidemic.
As health workers labour tirelessly to care for those who have been infected, monitor those who may have come in contact with the virus, and prevent further transmission, researchers have a limited window of opportunity to learn how to treat and prevent the disease. In order to accelerate progress, governance of the clinical trials must be transparent, and all knowledge about the disease, including developments regarding potential treatments and vaccines, must be shared openly – imperatives that will require strong public-health leadership in both the Mano River countries and the developed world.